New link puts rail operator on track for passenger growth

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am

Hong Kong's train pioneer shunts back into the commercial heart of Kowloon

TODAY MARKS A milestone in the history of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation's (KCRC) rail operation, as the long-awaited Tsim Sha Tsui extension of East Rail comes into service.

East Rail passengers will be able to travel directly to the busy tourist and shopping centre.

The commissioning of the Tsim Sha Tsui line extends the East Rail by 1km to the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui from the railway terminus at Hunghom.

The extension runs underground along Salisbury Road with the new East Tsim Sha Tsui station below Wing On Plaza and the Middle Road Children's Playground.

'It only takes about 40 minutes to travel from Lowu to Tsim Sha Tsui without the need for interchange,' a spokesman said.

With the extension, there are now 13 stations for the 35.5km alignment between Lowu and Tsim Sha Tsui.

The East Tsim Sha Tsui station is connected to the MTR's Tsim Sha Tsui station and major hotels and shopping arcades by an underground link. The new station gives passengers another interchange with the MTR network, in addition to the Kowloon Tong station.

'Passengers can interchange at Kowloon Tong or East Tsim Sha Tsui stations, relieving the congestion at Kowloon Tong station and the MTR station on Nathan Road,' the spokesman said.

The Tsim Sha Tsui extension forms part of the KCRC's efforts to improve its rail service and operation throughout the city. The extension was one of the priority projects recommended in the first Railway Development Strategy for Hong Kong, formulated in 1994.

The other priority projects included the KCR West Rail, the MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension, and the KCR Ma On Shan Rail. In June 1998, the KCRC submitted a proposal to the government on the Tsim Sha Tsui Extension and Ma On Shan Rail.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Extension, Ma On Shan Rail and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line are the three East Rail extension lines KCRC has pushed ahead with in recent years to meet the growing demand for domestic and cross-boundary passenger rail services.

The Ma On Shan Rail is an extension line linking Ma On Shan with East Rail at Tai Wai station, while the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line will run from Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau to create a second boundary crossing point.

The three extensions are crucial to the further development of East Rail as the north-south strategic railway corridor in Hong Kong, complemented by West Rail as the east-west corridor.

According to the KCRC, the capital cost for the construction of the three East Rail extensions amounts to HK$27.5 billion.

Construction of the Tsim Sha Tsui Extension began in April 2001 after the project had been approved by the Executive Council to provide a convenient and direct access between northeast New Territories and urban Kowloon.

A longer-term proposal is to connect the East Tsim Sha Tsui station to the West Rail line in West Kowloon.

'In future, the Tsim Sha Tsui extension will be linked with the gazetted Kowloon Southern Line to join the West Rail system, further enhancing KCRC's commitment of providing fast, convenient and comfortable service to passengers,' the spokesman said.

Trial operation of the Tsim Sha Tsui Extension started in August after civil engineering work had been substantially completed. Various tests and trials with stringent requirements have been carried out since April.

As part of its testing operation in the past few months, some East Rail trains moved on to the East Tsim Sha Tsui station after all passengers had alighted at Hunghom.

Extensive drill exercises were conducted simulating emergency scenarios to gear up for today's opening of the new line.

For instance, the railway company carried out a joint emergency exercise in August with various government departments, including the Fire Services Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, the Hospital Authority, the Auxiliary Medical Services and the Civil Aid Services.

The exercise simulated an incident in which 500 passengers had to be evacuated from a southbound East Rail train in the tunnel between Hunghom station and East Tsim Sha Tsui station due to a fire on the train.

The procedures for handling emergencies in a tunnel as well as the co-ordination among all parties were tested. The rescue teams demonstrated a high level of co-ordination and co-operation in the exercise. The tests were designed to ensure the best response, co-ordination and communication among KCRC staff and emergency service organisations.